The biggest name on today's list of possible dividend hikers from the financial sector is Metlife (MET), a $30 billion insurer that ranks as the biggest insurance firm in the country by assets. I said earlier that Credicorp was the only bank on the list; strictly, that's not exactly true. Metlife became a bank holding company during the financial crisis in order to gain access to cheap, liquid credit and keep its head above water.
While the move worked, bank holding status puts MET at an operational disadvantage to its peers. Going back to a conventional insurer should improve MET's profitability -- and give it more freedom from the Treasury department in setting its dividend payouts.>>10 Low-Risk Dividend Stocks for a Volatile Market So Metlife's been doing just that. The firm has been selling off its banking assets for the past few years, decreasing its exposure to Europe, and working on gaining approval from regulators. Even though MET is dealing with delays in getting the change approved, investors are expecting it to happen sometime this year. When it does, I'd expect MET's 2.5% dividend payout to ratchet higher. The firm has been paying that 74 cent annual dividend since 2007, a period when MET's top and bottom line have climbed significantly. It's time for a dividend hike.
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